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Opposition Politician Says Talks With Armenian PM On Snap Polls Unsuccessful So Far

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian (right) met with Edmon Marukian, the leader of the Bright Armenia opposition faction on March 4. (file photo)
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian (right) met with Edmon Marukian, the leader of the Bright Armenia opposition faction on March 4. (file photo)

The leader of an Armenian opposition parliamentary faction says talks with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian on holding early parliamentary elections have failed to reach a deal so far.

Pashinian, who faces a political crisis and a call from the army to resign, has said he is open to holding snap elections, but only if the opposition agrees to certain conditions.

"We have held negotiations. No understanding has been reached with the prime minister," Bright Armenia leader Edmond Marukian told reporters after meeting with Pashinian on March 4.

Political tensions in Armenia have been high, with supporters of Pashinian and the opposition staging competing rallies in the capital.

Pashinian has faced mounting protests and calls from the opposition for his resignation following a six-week conflict between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh last year.

At the heart of the turmoil is the Russian-brokered deal Pashinian signed in November that brought an end to the fighting after Armenian forces suffered territorial and battlefield losses from Azerbaijan's Turkish-backed military.

Under the deal, Armenia ceded control over parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and all seven surrounding districts of Azerbaijan that had been occupied by Armenian forces since the early 1990s.

Marukian said more talks, which should also involve other political forces, might move the sides closer to an agreement on an early vote.

"We agreed that the topic cannot be closed solely by us," Marukian said. "Other forces are needed, because we cannot dissolve the parliament based only on our position."

The talks on March 4 were held a day after thousands of opposition supporters rallied in the capital, Yerevan, to demand Pashinian's resignation.

Thousands Gather Outside Armenian Parliament, Amid Heavy Security, To Demand PM Resign
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That rally came after Armenia's political crisis was plunged into deeper uncertainty following the president’s refusal to sign an order to dismiss the head of the military.

Pashinian moved to dismiss the chief of the General Staff after accusing top military brass last week of attempting a coup when they called on Pashinian to resign over his handling of last year's war with Azerbaijan.

On March 2, for a second time, Armenia’s largely ceremonial president, Armen Sarkisian, refused to approve the order dismissing the chief of the General Staff Onik Gasparian.

However, the president did not ask the Constitutional Court to rule on whether the order to fire Gasparian complies with the constitution, a technicality that legal experts said means the dismissal would likely take effect automatically if the head of state does not appeal to the top court by March 4.

Last week, the discontent spilled over into the military after Pashinian dismissed Tiran Khachatrian, the first deputy chief of the general staff, who mocked the prime minister's analysis of Russian weapons used in the war against Azerbaijan.

In response, several dozen high-ranking military officers signed a letter accusing Pashinian and his government of bringing the country "to the brink of collapse" and calling for his resignation.

Pashinian said the move amounted to "an attempted military coup" and immediately moved to fire Gasparian, adding a new layer to the political crisis.

Pashinian, whose My Step faction dominates parliament, has refused opposition demands to resign but has hinted at accepting early parliamentary elections under certain conditions.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and Interfax

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